An anti-typhoid campaign is all set to be launched in Sindh from November 18 after an alarming number of typhoid cases emerged across the province this year.
The campaign will run until November 30. Around 10.1 million children between the ages of nine months and 15 years will be vaccinated against typhoid, including its multidrug-resistant form.
A large number of these children — 4.4 million out of 10.1 million — are of school-going age which is why schools and other social organisations are also involved.
“Around 10,000 people in urban areas of Sindh have been affected by multidrug-resistant typhoid, which doesn’t respond to standard typhoid medications,” said Dr Muhammad Akram Sultan, the Sindh EPI project director, at a meeting at the Emergency Operations Centre in Karachi.
Around half of these are in Karachi, he said, in areas where sewerage systems were poor. A research by the Aga Khan University had unearthed that the outbreak of multi-drug resistant typhoid had started in Karachi and Hyderabad in 2016, and the majority of the cases reported were of children under the age of 15 years.
He also admitted that vaccine coverage had been inadequate in the past but now the programme would be strengthened with more than 1,300 new vaccinators, whose appointments had been approved by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.
There’s a plan to achieve more than 90% coverage by going to schools, madrassas and homes, Dr Sultan said. Lady health workers, nurses, paramedics and doctors would also be involved.
Parents are urged to get their children vaccinated, said Professor Dr Jamal Raza, head of the National Institute of Child Health and former president of the Pakistan Paediatrics Association. He added that the vaccine offered long-term immunity and had no side effects.
A case response campaign to tackle polio would also be launched from November 4, said the EOC Sindh coordinator Rehan Baloch at the meeting.
It will take place in Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Matiari, Shaheed Benazirabad, Jacobabad and Dadu. The campaign will immunise 1.7 million children against polio.
Following this there would be a nationwide campaign from December 16. Nine million children under the age of five years will be vaccinated in Sindh overall. Of these, 2.4 million will be targeted in Karachi.
So far this year, nine cases have been reported in Sindh, compared to only one last year.
Dr Ahmed Ali Shaikh from the EOC Sindh attributed the rise in polio cases to a four month gap in immunisation campaigns and spread of misinformation about the vaccine. He said an aggressive and consolidated effort would be made to eradicate the virus.
Dr Shaikh added that community fatigue due to a lack of understanding about the importance of repeated doses also affected the anti-polio drives.
Migration of people from northern areas to Sindh led to an increase in the number of vaccine refusals.
To deal with refusing families, he said, special committees had been constituted which would be led by commissioners and deputy commissioners and include religious support persons of the area.
The private sector had also been brought on-board in this regard, said Professor Dr Khalid Shafi, general secretary of the Pakistan Paediatrics Association.
More than 30 private hospitals and 50 private paediatric clinics were providing polio vaccinations free of cost during campaigns, he added.